Thomas Piketty’s Capitalism Revisited
Thomas Piketty’s international best selling Capital in the Twenty-First Century lays out his theory of a long-run rise in income inequality under capitalism. It is written as a manifesto urging reintegration of social sciences. A number of reviewers judged it on ideological grounds, labeling it either as a revolution in economic thinking, or dismissing it offhandedly. Piketty’s theory of rising inequality is based on the two Fundamental Laws of Capitalism, developed after the Solow growth model. However, this model is inconsistent with Piketty’s own characterization of modern capitalism. Moreover, his sole justification for the constant discrepancy between rate of return and rate of income growth (r > g) is based on the high elasticity of substitution between capital and labor. However, that is just one factor that can have an influence on factor income shares. By failing to offer a consistent theory of rising inequality, his piece can hardly be considered as a useful founding stone for a new social science.
Key words: Income distribution, Production function, Elasticity of substitution, Economic growth.
JEL: D33, O12, P17.